Well today was an exciting one for Team 48 (and ultimately Team 379) and served as a wonderful demonstration of what a FIRST team can quickly accomplish with the support of its local elected Congressmen and women. If we all work diligently (and persistently) to complete Dean’s in-season homework assignment, we can all propel FIRST forward together! It works!
The fun all started at 10:00 AM this morning when our local U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH 17th) visited Warren G. Harding High School. He stopped by to congratulate our students on winning consecutive Regional Chairman’s Awards at the Buckeye Regional. Each of the kids received a personalized certificate, and their names will be placed in the Congressional Record. He also gave quite an inspirational speech to those in attendance, urging the students to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed, persist in their studies, and lift up the community and ultimately the country by pursuing further education and the technical careers that will drive 21st Century progress. He rightly pointed out to our kids that they and our community businesses were no longer just competing with the “guy down the street”; instead, we are now sharing the stage with a global cast of characters.
It turns out Mr. Ryan is on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and more importantly the 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee, so it’s no surprise he mentioned these topics to our kids. His membership on these committees puts him in a great position to jointly pursue the spread of FIRST throughout our region with us. Following his speech, several other team leaders and I took the opportunity to talk with the Congressman for a good 20 minutes. We first delivered a printed copy of our “homework” email to him, and we’ve asked him to help spread the news of FIRST to other neighboring representatives who don’t have any teams in their districts. We described our persistent yet to-date unrealized efforts to spread FIRST to additional high schools in the community, mentioning that the initial monetary investment is always the stumbling block for the schools we approach (we don’t reside in a very economically-viable region right about now). We also mentioned our efforts to expand FLL in our area, which have met with better success. Upon hearing our concerns, Congressman Ryan offered to arrange and attend a multi-county meeting of school administrators and educators, business leaders, and technical professionals to sit down with our team and get down to the serious business of finally starting up some rookie teams. We are extremely encouraged by this news and thankful to Mr. Ryan for offering to help us on such a generous level.
Now for the fun part. During our conversation with the Congressman, we decided to speak on behalf of Team 379, the Girard Robocats. These guys are our neighbors in Trumbull County, so we knew they had won the Engineering Inspiration Award at Detroit and had been trying desperately to raise the money for Atlanta. These guys win the KPC&B Entrepreneurship Award almost every place they go, and they are fundraising fiends, and we offered to help out with bus transportation and shared hotel rooms, but they just couldn’t raise enough this time around.
Upon hearing their story, Mr. Ryan wanted to help out (and fast!). He got on the phone with 379’s team leader, Joe, while I called up FIRST to find out if registration for Atlanta was still possible. It turned out that someone pulled out of the competition and their spot was available, but FIRST needed payment confirmation TODAY. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Congressman asked Joe over the phone how much his team would need to be able to make it to Atlanta. Joe told him, “$6000”. Mr. Ryan wrote down $12,000. Not more than an hour or so later, the Congressman arrived at Girard High School to present the robotics team students with the news. And we thought the government was slow!
I don’t know where he obtained the funds on such short notice, nor do I care! All I know is that Team 48 is glad to have such a wonderful local ally in spreading the FIRST message, and that Team 379 is one lucky group of people. I hope they have loads of fun with us down in Atlanta, and I hope they put any leftover money from that gift to good use within their team and community. Knowing them, I’m sure they will.
WFMJ-21 News Report - On Congressman Ryan’s Visit
(I love the “50,000 times more important than football” reference - our community is fixated upon high school football. We’re trying to shift their focus away from that a bit! Also, despite our attempts to correct them, the local media still has trouble separating the Chairman’s Award from the actual competition winner)
"Members of the Warren G. Harding robotics team received personal congratulations from Congressman Tim Ryan.
"The 34 students and their advisors from Delphi took first place for the second straight year in regional competition.
“Ryan told the students that their accomplishment is 50,000 times more important than what happens on the football field.”
WKBN-27 News Report - On Girard’s Surprise Gift
"17th District Congressman Tim Ryan delivered some good news to the Girard High school Robotics Team.
“The team advanced to national competition but because of a lack of funding had to withdraw. However Congressman Ryan stopped by the school today to tell the students he was able to secure the 12-thousand-dollars they needed to go. The nationals will take place April 27th through April 29th in Atlanta, Georgia.”